Jewish American Children
1940-1960
Americanization, Anti-Semitism, Assimilation: Ashley Schwenk
Oral History: Melinda Moore
Language: Monica Moore
Literature: Adina Laviolette
Education: Crystal Greenwood
Religion: Sarah Perkins
Jewish Foods: Bruce Southworth
Jewish American Children
Study Guide
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Who was the pioneer of the Jewish summer camps?
What was the goal of these camps?
There was only minimal mention of Jewish culture or tradition in camp
advertisements. Why is this significant?
How many Jews gained entry into the U.S. during 1933-43 and why was the
number so low?
Although Jews weren’t racially separated like African-Americans, how else
were they discriminated?
In 1943, Jewish youths and adults were the targets of which group, and why
was nothing done to prevent it?
How did American consumption affect Jewish children?
How was the Holocaust treated and taught to children?
How did social mobility have a negative effect?
What was the JUJ?
How did oral history assist written research?
Jewish American Children
Study Guide
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How did oral history help Jewish children in regards to
assimilation?
What is the difference between Hebrew and Yiddish?
How well was the Yiddish Language retained in the children?
What importance is the ability to retain the language of the Jews?
What does Jewish American Children’s Literature often portray?
What does “Yom Ha-Azma’ut” mean?
What is the name of a popular Hanukah game?
What were Jewish day schools called in Europe?
How many Jewish American students attended Jewish day schools
in the United States in the early 1940’s?
What does “kosher” mean?
What part of the loaf of bread is the “challah”?
1920-1960: Americanization, AntiSemitism, Assimilation
1920s: Americanization
• Who was the pioneer of the Jewish
summer camps?
• What was the goal of these camps?
• There was only minimal mention of
Jewish culture or tradition in camp
advertisements. Why is this significant?
1920s: Answers
• Chester William Teller
• The goal of the camps was to provide “normal, good,
wholesome experiences” for Jewish boys and girls.
• Jews placed emphasis on being Americans. Parents wanted
their children to be comfortable and psychologically
prepared for life in a non-Jewish society and teach them to
be healthy American adults.
1920-1960: Americanization, AntiSemitism, Assimilation
1930-1940: Anti-Semitism
• How many Jews gained entry into the U.S. during
1933-43 and why was the number so low?
• Although Jews weren’t racially separated like
African-Americans, how else were they
discriminated?
• In 1943, Jewish youths and adults were the targets
of which group, and why was nothing done to
prevent it?
1930s-1940s: Answers
• Only 165,756 Jews immigrated to the U.S. This is due to the strict
quota immigration laws in the U.S. at the time which heavily restricted
countries with higher Jewish populations, ex. Eastern Europe.
• Jewish youths were excluded from colleges and universities, adults
were denied from some occupations and craft unions.
• Jews were the target of Irish Catholic citizens in Boston and New
York. Jews were beaten, attacked, persecuted, much in the way
African-Americans were treated by the Ku Klux Klan. It was a game;
Irish teenagers would go after Jewish youths saying, “Let’s go Jew
hunting”. Local authorities or Catholic clergy did not do anything to
stop the violence because they too were of Irish descent, and would
rather encourage the violence than stop it. As a result, Jewish youths
were forced to go out in fear or not at all, groups stopped meeting, and
shops and homes were vandalized.
1920-1960: Americanization, AntiSemitism, Assimilation
1950-1960: Assimilation
• How did American consumption affect
Jewish children?
• How was the Holocaust treated and taught
to children?
• How did social mobility have a negative
effect?
• What was the JUJ?
1950s-1960s: Answers
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Children were heavily assimilated through American toys. In counter response,
toy manufacturers came out with Jewish-themed counterparts. Consumption
also changed the bar/bat mitzvah; the focus changed from the solemn rite of
passage to the lavish, often expensive after party.
In schools, the Holocaust was romanticized. Children learned stories of Jewish
heroes/heroines and strength, victimization was ignored. Survivors did not
discuss their stories because they were told the American public wasn’t
interested.
As Jews moved up the social ladder and out into the suburbs, they were
excluded from many social programs which they had previously qualified for.
The JUJ was the Jews for Urban Justice, a youth activist group out of
Washington DC.
Oral History Questions
• How did oral history assist written research?
--By filling in the gaps where no written
documentation existed.
• How did oral history help Jewish children in
regards to assimilation?
--Oral history helped Jewish children by
communicating stories of their Jewish legacy, to
pass on from one generation to another, during a
time when being an all American was important.
Importance of Oral History 1940-1960 to Jewish
Children in America
• In July 1944, Churchill wrote in reference to the holocaust,
"There is no doubt that this is probably the greatest and
most horrible single crime ever committed in the whole
history of the world" (Chaikin 1987). The Nazis killed at
least six million Jews, 1.5 million were children.
• In America there were Jews that did not suffer the cruel
treatment of the holocaust, yet no one could ignore what
had happened. For the survivors who came to America,
there was a need to have children to pass on not only their
heritage, but also their stories of survival.
History and Culture
• Oral history filled in gaps in historical,
social, cultural, religious, and
genealogical research where no written
documentation existed.
Oral History and Social Issues
False Identities
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False identities were created for reasons of protection, and moving forward. Oral history
may have been one of the only tools of revealing these lost identities to Jewish children, and
could help with the frustrations felt in losing identities and loved ones.
Anti-Semitism
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After World War II was over anti-Semitism began to dissipate, yet it still prevailed for years
to come. Oral history helped Jewish children deal with discrimination. by relating stories of
triumph over adversity..
Assimilation
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Oral history helped Jewish children by communicating stories of their Jewish legacy, to pass
on from one generation to another, during a time when being an all American was important.
Family Expectations
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Oral history was a way cultural and family expectations were expressed to Jewish children.
A family’s wish for their children to marry within their own group, could be passed onto
Jewish children through not only their parents, but also through religious, educational, and
social systems within the Jewish
Oral History and Emotional Problems
Survivor’s guilt
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Survivors guilt was sometimes felt by some survivors, because of living when other loved ones
had not. This guilt was sometimes passed onto the children of survivors.
Survival skills
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Holocaust survivors learned behaviors in order to survive, and these behaviors could be passed
onto their children, in the forms of, eating disorders, money issues, trust issues, and denial.
Isolation
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The children of survivors sometimes felt set apart from other children. Survivors could become
highly overprotective, and guarded over their children because of their need of family heritage,
which could lead to feelings of dread, hatred, fear, and insecurities.
Fear of talking
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For some survivors silence was survival; the silence did not end with the end of the war. A new
silence of suppression arose out of the need to assimilate and forget the past.
Support
• The telling of their stories for some
survivors could be therapeutic, and the
need for support, and communication, was
important for the children of the Holocaust,
children of survivors, and for future
children.
Remembering Through Oral History
The survivors of the holocaust were possibly the only link to many
who had been killed; oral history was essential for memories and
history to be kept alive.
"Your sad holocaust is engraved in History, and nothing shall purge
your deaths from our memories. For our memories
are
your only grave". (Chaikin1987).
"Those who forget the past shall be condemned to repeat it.“
Santayana
Language Questions
• What is the difference between Hebrew and Yiddish? Hebrew is
considered to be the language of the Torah and the Old Testament. It is a
Middle Eastern language which is 5,000+ years old. It is spoken by the
Semitic Jews. Yiddish is over 1,000 years old and is spoken by Ashkenazi
Jews of Eastern Europe. The two languages use the same alphabet but employ
the letters in different ways.
• How well was the Yiddish Language retained in the children?
Keeping Yiddish alive and retaining it in the children is not something that has
been an easy process for the Jews in America. The Yiddish education did not
develop straightaway, unlike the Yiddish theater, political activism, and press.
• What importance is the ability to retain the language of the Jews?
It declares one’s identity. It is a way of looking at things that can be different
from other cultures and also unique. It is a continuation of Jewish identity and
a link to the past.
Hebrew and Yiddish
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Hebrew is considered to be the language of the Torah and the Old
Testament. It is a Middle Eastern language which is 5,000+ years old. It is
spoken by the Semitic Jews and it’s the national language of Israel. The
religious scriptures are written in Hebrew. Most European Jews did not use
Hebrew as their everyday speech.
Yiddish is over 1,000 years old and is spoken by Ashkenazi Jews of
Eastern Europe. According to a proverb, it is di shprakh vos redt zikh– the
language that “ speaks (by) itself.” and there is no need for instruction.
Yiddish is considered to be the spoken language, compared to the written.
The two languages use the same alphabet but employ the letters in
different ways.
Kheyder is the school where the studies begin, in teaching the pupils to
read the Hebrew of the Bible and prayer book, the language used was and
still is Yiddish.
Yiddish Retention among children
• Keeping Yiddish alive and retaining it in the children is not
something that has been an easy process for the Jews in America.
The Yiddish education did not develop straightaway, unlike the
Yiddish theater, political activism, and press.
• For the immigrant children and also the Jewish children already in
the U.S., there was a struggle to retain their mother tongue (mameloshn), which was usually Yiddish. This struggle is because the
public education that they received was taught exclusively in
English.
• Some advantages that the children had in retaining Yiddish was in
Talmud Torahs and other afternoon or weekend schools set up for
Jewish education. Yet, it declined in the post-World War II era, so
American Hasidic education has contributed to Yiddish education
by the use of Hasidic day schools. This established a new American
Yiddish-Speaking population.
Importance of Retention
• “ Language as understood by sociolinguists is not
simply a formal tool used to communicate ideas or
practices; it is a part of the very content of the
cultural beliefs and practices which are to be
communicated.” (Gardner 1985)
• It declares one’s identity
• It is a way of looking at things that can be
different from other cultures and also unique
• It is a continuation of Jewish identity and a link to
the past
Literature Questions
• What does Jewish American Children’s
Literature often portray?
• What does “Yom Ha Azma’ut” mean?
• What is the name of a Hanukah game?
Literature
• What does Jewish American children’s
Literature often portray?
Jewish Holidays!
A Picture Book Of Jewish Holidays
Yom Ha-Azma’ut
=
Israel’s Independence Day !
The Family Treasury Of Jewish
Holidays
• Includes: stories, poems, songs, recipes,
games, and crafts
• Hanukkah game: Dreidel!
Purim Play
• Children wear costumes to synagogue to
hear the story of Purim read.
• Many children enjoy putting on their own
Purim plays.
A Torah Is Written
• Sefer Torah = a handwritten scroll
that contains the laws and history
of the Jewish people
Education Study Questions
• What were Jewish day schools called in
Europe? (Cheder)
• How many Jewish American students
attended Jewish day schools in the United
States in the early 1940’s? (Fewer than
20,000)
Education 1940-1960
• Most Jewish American children in the
United States went to public school then
met after public school or on Sundays to
learn the basic elements of Judaism
Education (con.)
• There were a select few, approximately
20,000, Jewish American students in
the early 1940’s who attended full time
“Jewish” day schools.
• These schools combined subjects such
as math and English with a full
curriculum of Jewish studies.
Education--Important Subjects
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Reading
Writing
Torah
Mishnah
Hebrew Grammer
Poetry
Talmud
Philosophy of Religion
Logic
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Arithmetic
Geometry
Optics
Astronomy
Music
Mechanics
Medicine
Metaphysics
Education (con.)
• Jewish day schools developed in Europe
• They were called Cheder
• Developed in the United States During WWII
• Day school agenda
• School day begins and ends with public prayer
• Food served is Kosher
• Observance of holidays and Sabbath is strongly
reinforced
• Daily conversation was made up of Hebrew vocabulary
and Jewish idioms.
Education (con.)
• American Jews felt that they had succeeded in incorporating there
Jewish culture into American culture despite the failing of other
minority groups because of the rapid increasing number of day schools
and the increasing emphasis on tradition
• There were also warning signs that this was not the case...
• Decline and ultimate deterioration of secular schools, labor Zionist
and Yiddishist, and after school Yeshivot
• neglected Jewish education for programs unrelated to culture or
education
• Hebrew language or biblical narratives in the congregational
school was non-existent
• hours of instruction and years of enrollment were dropping
Religion Study Questions
• What Jewish rite of passage was adapted uniquely
and practiced solely by Jews in America?
• What 1948 event caused a spiritual revival among
American Jews and inspired such Americans to
share the burdens of Jews around the world?
1930s: American Jews Unite
• During the Great Depression, American
Anti-Semitism intensified
• American Jews faced growing danger and
discrimination
• Jewish immigrants united as a group of
American Jews in self-defense
Division Persists
• As controversy increased surrounding
communism and Zionism, American Jews
became more divided and institutionalized
into three branches:
1. Orthodox
2. Conservative
3. Reform
Americanizing Jews
• American Jews moved toward a child-centered
community and began to New Trends in
celebrate and focus on children more
• New “synagogue-centers” were created to
include pools, athletic courts, Hebrew schools,
and host community gatherings
• Reform Jews moved away from bar mitzvah and
began using confirmation to mark the graduation
of students at around age 15
American Jews Institute--Bat Mitzvah
• Jewish law includes Bar Mitzvah- a rite of passage
to mark a 12 year old boy’s transition into
manhood
• In 1922, An American rabbi conducted the first
Bar Mitzvah for his 12 year old daughter, much to
the shock of the Jewish community
• By 1960, Bat Mitzvah had become an American
institution among Conservative Jews
Zionism: Israel Becomes A State
• The Zionist movement sought the creation of a formal
national homeland for Jews
• Many Jewish Americans (the world’s largest concentration
of Jews lived in New York) felt a sense of responsibility
for less fortunate Jews around the world
• The Zionist movement financially and politically united
many Jews
• On May 14, 1948, their goal was realized when Jews were
finally given the land of Israel as a geographic homeland
and sovereign nation
Jewish Food Questions
• What does “kosher” mean?
• What part of the loaf of bread is the
“challah”?
Kosher
• Refers to the proper methods of food
preparation and the dietary laws governing
its consumption.
• Pork and shellfish are not kosher.
• Cow’s milk is kosher, as well as beef, as
long as the cow is slaughtered properly.
Jewish Foods
• Challah – a very sweet, golden, eggy
bread.
• Chollent – a stew that comes in many
flavors and styles.
• Kugel – translated as “pudding”, it can
be either a side dish or a dessert.
Bibliography
Crystal Greenwood
Cowan, Neil M., and Ruth Schwartz Cowan. Our Parents’ Lives: The Americanization of
Eastern European Jews. New York: Basic Books, Inc., Publishers, 1989.
Diner, Hasia R. Jews in America. Religion in American Life Series. New York: Oxford
University Press, 1999.
Finkelstein, Norman H. Forged in Freedom: Shaping the Jewish-American Experience.
Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society, 2002.
Gottschalk, Haim A. University of Judais. 21 February 2005. [email protected]
Kelman, Ari. National Museum of American Jewish History. 12 February 2005.
http://www.nmajh.org/index.htm.
Koven, Julie. American Jewish Historical Society. 12 February 2005.
http://www.ajhs.org/reference/links.cfm#3.
Weinberg Julius, The “Greening” of Jewish Education. Judaism. vol. 34, issue 2, spring 85.
Wertheimer, Jack. Who’s Afraid of Jewish Day Schools? Academic Search Premier. vol 108,
Issue 5, Dec99.
Wollons, Roberta (Ed.) Kindergartens and Cultures: The Global Diffusion of an Idea. New
Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2000.
Bibliography
Adina Laviolette
Alder, David. A Picture Book of Jewish Holidays. New York: Holiday
House, 1981.
Cowan, Paul. A Torah is Written. Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication
Society, 1986
Drucker, Malka. The Family Treasury of Jewish Holidays. Boston: Little,
Brown and Company, 1994.
Jaffe, Nina. The Uninvited Guest and Other Jewish Holiday Tales. New
York: Scholastic Inc., 1993.
Schotter, Roni. Purim Play. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1998.
Bibliography
Melinda Moore
Chaikin, Miriam. A Nightmare In History, New York, NY: Clarion Books1987.
Fleischman, Paul. Whirligig, N. Y., Henry holt & Co. 1998.
Goldberg, Carol. On line Interview. [email protected], Saturday, February 5, 2005
8:21 PM
Genealogy Institute. On line Interview. [email protected],
Thursday, February 17, 2005 2:37 PM
Gottfried, Ted. Children of the Slaughter, Brookfield, Connecticut: 21st Century
Books 2001.
Holocaust History, http://www.holocaust-history.org/questions/forgive-andforget.shtml
Remember the Children, http://remember.org/children/children.html
http://www.chaim2g.org/
Voloj, Julian. On line Interview. [email protected],
Tuesday, February 15, 2005 1:53 PM
Bibliography
Monica Moore
Butwin, Frances. The Jews in America, Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Co.,
1969
Diner, Hasia R. Jews in America New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Horn, Miriam, “ Baseball, canoes and Stars of David. (Jewish Camps).” U.S.
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Bibliography
Sarah Perkins
“Creating American Jews; An Exploration of the Evolution of Jewish Identity in America”
National Museum of American Jewish History
“The American Jewish Experience in the Twentieth Century: Antisemitism and
Assimilation”
Jonathan D. Sarna and Jonathan Golden
Brandeis University
National Humanities Center
“From Generation to Generation” Bernard Mendoza's photo-documentary of Orthodox
Jewish communities across the United States
National Museum of American Jewish History
American Jewish Archives
Personal interview with Angelita Freedman, the daughter of a Russian Jewish immigrant
Ashley Schwenk
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Jewish American Children 1940-1960